Need to know
First of all, you need to know that there is no magic on the market and you shouldn’t expect to make huge amount of money in the short run. You have to look at the market in long term (over 5 years). In the history of finance, the yield of the major indexes has always beat North American bonds or any period of 20 years or more, and by a good amount. Also, the stock market is the best way to protect yourself against inflation, bonds don’t protect you. From this, we can conclude that the safest place to put your retirement money is on the stock market (at least when you aren’t planning to retire in the next 20 years).
What to buy?
Mutual funds are very popular because banks and financial company promote them as much as they can. The fact is that less than 10% of these manage to beat the indexes and that’s even less when you factor in the management fees.
What’s the solution?
The best solution is to invest your money in mutual funds that emulate one of the major indexes. These funds are easy to get and most financial companies out there offer them. The best part of this solution is that the management fees tend to be quite low.
This is the easiest and safest way to invest. But please be cautious, don't buy all the shares at the same time, fraction them so you get them every month. Using this method, you are more protected against price variation in the short them.
Can I beat the market?
The best initial advice is to follow the market without beating it. Now, the big question is how to beat it. The trick is to take 10 companies from the stock market that have the best dividend yield at a fixed date and put 1/10th of your investment in each. One year later, you sell them all repeat the process again. Since the transaction cost can be high if you have less than $10,000 there is a short cut version of it: you only buy stocks from the company with the second, third and fourth best yield. You shouldn’t take the best yield because to reduce risk. This shortcut version is more risky but still gives good result. Another variation is to invest in the stocks from this list which have the lowest cost so you can get more shares.
How does this method work?
The idea behind this method is that big company never dare to reduce their dividends. So by buying them at a fixed price, you are sure of the rate you are going to get. Another point is that the reason these companies yields are so high is because they are undervalued by the market and eventually their value will increase (thus reducing the dividend yield). This is a quick and dirty explanation and I encourage you to dig for more.
Markets fluctuate, so you have nobody to blame but yourself f you lose all your retirement money. This article just points out some easy ways to make money on the stock market and you should try and dig up all of information you can about them. Don't trust your financial advisor, most of the time they will propose you mutual funds with high fees because they get better commission out of them. If you feel insecure and still want to meet one, ask him first who pays his salary, it's a big indicator of his motivation.